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Braking vs Engine Braking

Race Driving Fundamentals

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Discussion and questions related to the course Race Driving Fundamentals

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Could you discuss the pros/cons and situations where you would use braking, engine braking (downshift) or a combination of both? Depending on the situation, I tend to use engine braking a little more. My reasoning is that I like to keep the rpms up so that I can accelerate coming out of the corner. This has helped me in undercutting some cars that have taken a higher line in a corner in a higher gear but can't hold that gear to accelerate out of the corner. Am I off here? Sometimes though, I feel that the engine braking has slowed me down more than I would have liked and that braking more then downshifting would give me the better blend of faster entry to the braking point. I tend to start braking earlier ( a combination of braking/downshifting) favoring keeping the car more balanced on corner entry than trying to squeeze the last amount of speed in the turn. Plus, it feels a little more risky, at least for me, to heavy brake late then have to settle the car for grip than start the braking process earlier and not have to deal with settling the car. I know it depends on the car, the corner, driver preferences and driver ability. Thoughts?



(continuing to try to improve...)

I believe the main reason for engine braking is to preserve brakes. If your brakes are adequate, there should be no reason to use your engine for braking. Just do the downshift at the end of braking, put it in the lower (correct) gear for the corner / corner exit, and release the clutch. If you have an H-pattern, you can go directly to the desired gear. Of course sequential boxes may take a bit more time, since you have to go through each gear on the way down.

As David said, it takes some load off the brakes and is preparation for when the gear will be needed, however it is also variable with the gear being used and the engine rpm. As such, it's another tool for the skilled driver to use. Not sure if you're familiar with trail braking and how it's used to fine tune the 'traction circle', so that may be something to investigate. If you find the vehicle turns in better with a last minume change down, you may find more rear brake bias is of benefit while staying in the higher gear - this also avoids the change up which can have an upsetting affect on the vehicle under power on the exit and the slight interuption in acceleration.

As a general rule, the more speed you can carry through the corner, not just because it's faster there, but it means you can brake later and gain more speed earlier, which increases the average speed of the straights/corners leading into and exiting that corner.

Hi Lew. To continue to add to what David and Gord have already said - in modern race cars with good brakes there's really no need to engine brake from a braking perspective. In the early days when race car brakes were pretty bad, drivers would try to take some load off them by supplementing the braking with engine braking.

These days it only really tends to be used to change the corner entry balance. If your entry balance is good, in theory you shouldn't use any engine braking. In a RWD car, by choosing the gear you use with the engine braking on corner entry you can tweak the entry balance. This is actually an area some race teams put quite a lot of effort into with E-throttle control etc to try and eliminate engine braking. Otherwise, you're essentially adding some rear brake bias (for a RWD car) that's changing as a function of engine speed. Hope that helps.

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